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The NV9 is a pretty solid performer, starting up in comfortably under two seconds and shutting down again even more quickly. In single shot mode it can manage a consistent shot-to-shot time of just over two seconds, which is nice and quick, while in continuous mode it takes a shot every 1.5 seconds. However in this mode there is no audio cue when each shot is taken, and the screen is blank, making accurate framing difficult. There is also a motion-capture setting, which takes a burst of up to 30 640 x 480 frames at 5fps, and an auto bracketing mode.
The autofocus system is exceptionally good, focusing quickly and accurately in virtually any situation. Its low-light performance is especially impressive, focusing in pitch darkness almost as quickly as in daylight at a range of around three metres, thanks to the bright AF lamp. It does slow down somewhat at long zoom settings in low light, but still focuses well. The flash is a little underpowered, with a maximum range of only 3.4m, but it is well metered at close range.
Overall image quality is pretty good. The lens performs well, with minimal distortion or chromatic aberration, and good edge-to-edge detail. Colour reproduction is very neutral, possibly even a bit muted, although this is not helped by the exposure meter's tendency to over-expose by about half a stop in most high-contrast situations. This resulted in a lot of burned-out highlights in outdoor shots. Overall dynamic range was actually pretty good, but adding the Auto Contrast Balance just made the whole picture look over-exposed.
Noise control is also a strong point, with excellent picture quality up to 200 ISO. There is some noise visible at 400 ISO, and more at 800, but it is well controlled, retaining both fine detail and colour balance. 1600 ISO and the 3200 ISO setting available at 3MP are both pretty terrible, but that's usually the case.
The Samsung NV9 is a great pocket camera, ideal for quick snapshots and especially for parties and nights out. It is solidly made, looks good, performs well and produces good results under a wide range of situations. The multimedia features and headphones are a bit average, but if you're looking for a classy ultra-compact the NV9 is great value for money. USB charging is an additional bonus.
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